CHINATOWN: MY KIND OF PLACE
Chinatown is Roman Polanski’s classic 1974 crime drama. Robert Towne wrote the Oscar winning screenplay. Jack Nicholson is at his coolest. Faye Dunaway is the mysterious femme fatale. The movie is a twisted tale about money, family secrets, and orange groves.
Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a private investigator. Mrs. Mulwray (Diane Ladd) comes in and hires him to trail her husband because she thinks he is having an affair. Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling) is Los Angeles’ water commissioner. Gittes does some digging and exposes Mulwray in the papers for having an affair with a young girl. Not soon after Mulwray shows up dead. Then the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) shows up. She hires Gittes to find out who murdered her husband. Gittes stumbles into a power struggle over a water drought, acres of land for cheap, and one girl.
This is a timeless story of corruption set in 1930 Los Angeles. There are subtle curves in the plot that you don’t anticipate. The dialogue produces memorable lines such as, “Let me explain something to you, Walsh. This business requires a certain amount of finesse.” Jack Nicholson has always and continues to be this cool. His character is bored with life. He maintains his cool even after his nose is almost sliced in half. Faye Dunaway must have invented the deer in headlights expression. Evelyn Mulwray is a frail but strong woman. John Huston is disgusting as her slimy, arrogant father Noah Cross. You feel hatred building for him just with his intentional mispronunciation of Jake’s last name. The setting is an homage to old Los Angeles with its Spanish architecture. Costumes, which also got Anthea Sylbert an Oscar nomination, bring you back in time. 3 piece suits and fedora hats for the men. Berets and other hats with flair for Mrs. Mulwray. The music, provided via piano, adds to the drama of the film and even adds it at times. This movie leads you to believe one thing and takes you somewhere else.
The pace of the film builds towards an unpredictable ending. This works for the ending but throughout the film it tends to draw certain scenes out longer than necessary.
Chinatown is a true original. Jake Gittes is another one of Jack Nicholson’s memorable characters. And between Bonnie Parker and Evelyn Mulwray, Faye Dunaway knows the true definition of a femme fatale. All of this on top of an understated story that keeps you guessing.